From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

From the Perspective of Chicago Semester Social Work Students

Monday, February 3, 2014

Broken Stereotypes by Jenna Harms

My name is Jenna Harms and I am a Social Work and Political Science major from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. This semester I am doing my social work practicum with Chicago Semester. I am interning at an organization called Heartland Alliance. They are an organization that assists refugees in the United States. I am interning in the section of their organization called Refugee and Immigrant Community Services (RICS) in their Resettlement and Placement department (R&P). The department that I am in works with refugees for the first 90 days that they are in the United States. This means that we organize and communicate with the government or their U.S. ties (UST) before they arrive arranging housing, food, and airport pickup for when they first arrive.

With that said on my first day, I was given the opportunity to go shopping at Target (something that I love doing anyway) for apartment supplies that we did not have on hand at the office. Then I helped set up the apartment for a family that would be arriving the next day. Now that I have been interning for three weeks on Wednesday, I can pretty much do all of the tasks that are required of my position. These tasks include: apartment setups, shopping for furnishings and groceries, conducting home visits when participants have been here for a week, 30 days, and 90 days, conducting intakes for new families, teaching participants how to use the CTA, taking participants to apply for public aid and social security, and taking participants to the clinic. Other responsibilities include writing case notes, sending emails to providers, calling participants, creating files for new participants, and much much more. Check out their website when you have time: It is never a dull moment at my internship! Each day I learn something new.

During my internship so far, I have had some of my personal stereotypes torn down. I knew before starting my internship that I would be working with people from the Middle East such as people from Iraq. Honestly, I was scared to be alone with them because of all of the bad things you hear about people from the Middle East. I am not really sure what I was exactly afraid of,  looking back on this situation, but my fear has since disappeared. The other day I was given the task of teaching three Iraqi men in their mid 20's how to use the CTA (public transportation) back to our office. I had to travel to their apartment alone and ride back with them. So I did that and it was great. I have been in multiple situations where this population of people have been so respectful towards me. They always hold the door open, always let me walk ahead of them. One time one of the participants tried to stop me from crossing the street when we had the "walk" sign because he was afraid I was going to get hit.

I have heard stories from participants about times when they have been alone and struggling here in the States. Because of confidentiality I am not going to describe specific situations but I have another request for you. Please help out your neighbor no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they look like. When you see someone in need help, do not just pretend like you are not home.

My semester though has not just been all work! I have had time to have some fun. Each week my roommates and I try a different ethnicity of food at a non-chain restaurant. So far we have had burgers, Chinese, and Mexican food. If anyone knows of any great restaurants to try out in this city we are always open for suggestions. I have attended an improv show, a play at the Lookinglass Theater, observed animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo, ice skated at Millennium Park, gone to the Field Museum on a field trip, and done lots of shopping! Below you can see some pictures from these events. I have mastered the CTA so if anyone would like to visit I know how to get us around by avoiding traffic. One of my prayers has been answered because I have also found a church that I am planning on calling my home for the next four months.